Council car allowances targeted in fight to save jobs and services

Darryl Stephenson
Darryl Stephenson
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GENEROUS car allowances, overtime and redundancy payments are to be renegotiated at a Yorkshire council which is facing 240 job cuts.

Hull Council’s interim chief executive Darryl Stephenson says “unpalatable” decisions need to be made, with £33m savings to be made over the next two financial years. In a global e-mail he said: “Councillors are very clear that they want the savings to be found with the minimum impact on service provision and jobs.

“What must be avoided at all costs is last minute massive service or job cuts if other ways can be found to make the savings which avoids this.”

Mr Stephenson said some terms and conditions for staff could be seen as “generous” compared with neighbouring authorities and they would be seeking to negotiate “the same terms and conditions that employees in those authorities enjoy”.

Using the example of the council-run Ferens art gallery as an example of how “in practice everyone loses” from higher employment costs, he said, despite demand, it had to close on Sundays, because it was uneconomical to open because of Sunday premium payments.

Negotiations with unions are set to begin against a background of up to 240 job cuts in the 
council’s business support section.

The council, which axed 1,000 jobs last year, is paying international consultancy Deloitte nearly £400,000 to help “replace a largely paper-driven bureaucracy with a more focused, modern and efficient business model”.

The Labour administration pledged to address terms and conditions when they came into power in 2011.

These include holiday entitlements which see workers on the lowest grade get 25 days a year leave, rising to 26 after 10 years, while those on grades 12 and above eventually end up on 33 days a year.

The council is looking to replace a range of mileage allowances which go up to 65p a mile to 45p across the board, in line with the standard HM Revenue & Customs rate.

Councillors also want to look at the viability of the essential car user allowance which pays some staff between £60 and £80 a month.

Deputy leader Daren Hale said they aimed to make at least £3m to £4m savings, starting in 2014, adding: “The more voluntary changes to terms and conditions, the less jobs that would be potentially lost in the long term.”

He said the essential car users scheme cost between £800,000 and £1m a year, adding: “If it is a choice between jobs or transport costs it has got to be jobs.”

A proposal to reduce the working week to 35 hours, with a commensurate loss of income, is also back on the table. The council offers a voluntary redundancy payment at a rate of 2.45 weeks per year served, higher than the statutory week to week-and-a-half.

But Coun Hale said the bigger issue was the length of time – three months – staff in Hull could be in a redeployment pool. Adding that to a 90-day consultation period and 12 weeks notice, it could take nine months for a worker to leave.

The news came as two cabinets to display silver were installed at the Guildhall. Lib Dem councillor Dave McCobb said: “You really have to question what has happened to the Labour party. They have U-turned on virtually every promise they have made and now the priority is installing two cabinets over everything else.”